LONDON: A woman from the UK who joined Daesh at the age of 15 has said she was “groomed,” and has urged the government to allow her back into Britain to face trial.
Shamima Begum was 15 when she traveled to Syria to join Daesh alongside three friends from London.
While in Syria, she married a Dutchman who fought for the terrorist group and had three children with him, all of whom died.
Since the fall of the so-called caliphate, she has been living in the Kurdish-administered Al-Roj camp for Daesh families, and has had her British citizenship revoked.
In an interview with Sky News, Begum, now 22, begged to be allowed back into the UK, saying she is willing to face the questioning of authorities and insisting she never played a role in any of Daesh’s infamous atrocities.
She said she left London for the promise of paradise, but instead found “hell on earth.” Prior to traveling to Syria, she said she was groomed for “weeks and weeks and maybe even months and months. It wasn’t just a decision I made very quickly, it was a decision I thought about for a while.”
Begum added: “I didn’t hate Britain, I hated my life really. I felt very constricted, and I felt I couldn’t live the life that I wanted in the UK as a British woman.”
She said she feels increasingly unsafe in the camp, which aid agencies have warned is among the most dangerous places in the world.
Begum added that she is worried about recent arson attacks and accidental fires, which have claimed many lives — because her high profile could make her a target.
“For a long time (the camp) wasn’t violent but for some reason it’s become more scary to live here. Maybe the women have got tired of waiting for something,” she said.
The British government has stripped Begum of her citizenship — effectively stranding her in the camp — insisting that she could instead claim a Bangladeshi passport due to her ethnicity. The Bangladeshi government has made clear that she will never be allowed into the country.
Begum’s only hope is for the British government and people to sympathize with her plight and allow her home to face the judicial system.
Asked what she would do if she is never allowed back to the UK, she said: “There is no Plan B.”
While other European governments have begun to repatriate their citizens from Syrian camps, London has remained steadfast in its strategy of blocking as many people as possible from returning to the UK by revoking their citizenship.
The Home Office told The Guardian last week that British citizenship is “a privilege, not a right.”
A spokesperson said: “Deprivation of citizenship on conducive grounds is rightly reserved for those who pose a threat to the UK or whose conduct involves very high harm.”